Meet the Worst Manager of the Year

Last Updated Apr 7, 2009 4:50 PM EDT

Think your boss is bad? He or she has nothing on Sam Zell.

Zell is the new winner of the annual Stupidus Maximum Award, an annual accolade created by Workforce Management editor John Hollon to honor the "most ignorant, shortsighted and dumb workforce management practice of the year."

Why? Well, according to Hollon, Zell -- the CEO of the Tribune Co., which owns the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and many other media properties -- is "over-the-top terrible as a manager."

Three reasons why Zell topped Hollon's list this year:

  1. He publicly belittles his employees, swears at them, and engages in sexist, boorish, and inappropriate speech that is unacceptable in any professional environment. (Believe it or not, his public persona prompted senior managers at the Los Angeles Times to issue a memo warning the workforce that they couldn't talk like the boss does.)
  2. He brought in power-hungry and heavy-handed managers like COO Randy Michaels, who publicly demeaned Tribune workers and merrily laid off journalists.
  3. He had a class-action lawsuit brought against him by current and former Los Angeles Times staffers who contend that "reckless management is destroying the value of the company."
Sums up Hollon:
"(Zell is) a man for all seasons, a guy who not only is adept at demoralizing his workforce, but also makes himself look crazy at the same time. In a world with so many bad managers, that's a tough combination to beat."
Well said. And a cautionary word to managers everywhere.

Read Hollon's entire column, "Bad beyond belief," on (free registration required).

  • CC Holland

    CC Holland is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a number of national magazines. Online, she was a columnist for and writes regularly for and BNET. On the other side of the journalism desk, she's been a managing editor for ZDNet, CNet, and KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, where she earned an APTRA Best News Web Site award.